Sunday, 15 April 2012
Throwing off irony
I had a pleasant couple of days in London visiting a friend this week. I concelebrated Mass at the famous Jesuit Church in Farm Street and then visited the British Museum where we chanced upon what is thought to be the oldest representation of Christ in the world, the fourth century Hinton St Mary mosaic (below): it shows a clean shaven young Christ with the alpha and omega symbols in the background and formed part of the pavement of a Roman house in Dorset. It was extraordinary to think of the Mass being celebrated on our shores almost three centuries before the arrival of St Augustine. We also saw a striking mid-nineteenth century Ethiopian Crucifixion of Christ. The following day we went to Tate Modern. Incidentally, for those who don't know, both the museum and the gallery are free: Britain is a truly fantastic country. I saw some beautiful works at the Tate Modern and discovered a lot about schools of art like Cubism and Vorticism and Futurism. I was struck, however, by the complete absence of religious themes. Then I chanced upon a video of Damien Hirst in which he spoke about the creation (by others, it seemed) of his renowned diamond encusted skull. The piece was entitled "For the Love of God," because, as he explained, that is what his mother exclaims whenever he has a radical new idea for art. I felt rather sad listening to him. It is as if, in modern culture, God can only be spoken of ironically. It is as if religious language speaks only to a previous generation. Then this evening I went to hear confessions at a women's prayer group run by the Franciscan Sisters of Renewal in the magnificent Corpus Christi Church on the Halton Moor estate in Leeds. Afterwards I was talking to one of the sisters and I mentioned some positive development in the local Church. "Thank God" she said, simply and naturally. Oh, it's such a relief to hear God spoken of uncarefully, unabashedly, straightforwardly, unembarrasedly!